Dean Carlson, Provost Burish, Vice-Chancellor Richardson, family and friends, welcome and thank you for being here today as we celebrate the Graduate School class of 2018.
Graduates, you did it, and this is your day. But, while this accomplishment is truly your own, you know you didn’t do it all on your own. You may have done the studying, but your families and loved ones did the sweating and the stressing along with you. They cheered you on at your successes and cheered you up at your setbacks. They are sitting behind you today, and they have been behind you every step of the way to help you reach this milestone. So, to the mothers and fathers, siblings and spouses, friends and relatives: Thank you and congratulations. This day also belongs to you. Graduates, let’s applaud your families and loved ones who helped you in what you have achieved.
This is a distinguished class, boasting many accolades and accomplishments in every field and every discipline.
Your degrees represent a major step forward in your own lives, as well as in the life of Notre Dame, as a university traditionally known for undergraduate education increasingly takes its place among the distinguished graduate programs in the world. This growth is due not only to our distinguished faculty and academic leaders, but also to the scholarly contributions you graduates have made and will make. We are proud to call you our graduates.
Your degrees represent too what you, through your talent and hard work, have accomplished, and your promise for the future. They give you the right to expect much as you go out into the world; they also indicate that the world has a right to expect much from you.
What can the world expect? Certainly, the highest level of learning and skill in your chosen fields. But, because this is Notre Dame, we hope for more.
We hope you will use the advantages of the education you received here for the common good. We hope that you will use your talents and skills not simply to serve your own interests but to care for the neediest and create a more just society. We hope that you acquired here not only the knowledge to make a good living, but the wisdom to live a good life.
A critical part of living a good life is finding the way in which you are called to use your learning for a purpose beyond yourself. As Pope Francis has said, “We must not forget that true power, at whatever level, is service.” My hope for each of you is that you find and direct your learning and efforts to service.
Our speaker today is an excellent example. Born in a small seaside town in southeastern Ireland, she was imbued with stories of Irish nationalism during the time of the troubles in Northern Ireland—the violent conflict between IRA and Unionists. Attending Trinity College in Dublin, one of only three Catholics in her class, she encountered a very different perspective on the history of her land. One of her important scholarly works, What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat, no doubt drew upon those experiences to help us understand and contain lethal actors who are often motivated by what they see as noble ideals.
She now brings her formidable skills as the first woman to lead Oxford University in tackling the challenging issues facing that institution, higher education in the UK and globally. The world needs leaders of intelligence and determination who are willing to take on our most difficult challenges while reminding us to seek to understand the motives and objectives of contending parties—even those engaged in violent conflict.
Thank you again, Dr. Richardson, for your inspiring comments and most of all, for the power of your example. I’m proud to be an alumnus of your great institution, and extremely proud this weekend to make you and honorary alumnus of Notre Dame.
Graduates, we congratulate you, we celebrate you and we wish you every success. Thank you for your presence here with us. We look forward to learning more of the great things you will do with what you have learned here at Notre Dame.
Let us bring our ceremony here to a conclusion with a brief prayer:
Of all the gifts you have bestowed on us, Lord,
None is greater than giving us intellects to seek truth, to learn and to understand your creation.
We thank you for these graduates who have labored so hard to learn and to understand.
We ask that you guide them to use what they have learned to go forth and heal, enlighten and unify a world deeply in need.
We pray this in your name. Amen.